Chelsea ran because she didn’t know anything else. Her legs were burning and her breathing laboured, but her stride didn’t shorten. Every morning she was out the door by five and running hard and fast until six. Most days, she’d make it the four k’s out to town hall before having to turn around. Some days, she’d make it to the still-vacant video store another two k further down the main road. She’d passed that store a few minutes ago and still the timer on her phone had signalled the half-hour mark and time to turn around. She left the town proper, sorry-looking orchards replacing dilapidated shop fronts. Her legs no longer burned, they just moved, each thumping step a distant sensation. She could no longer think beyond putting one foot in front of the other, breathe in, breathe out. Her arms hurt. Had she been thinking, she’d have been surprised to learn that if you run far enough, eventually even your arms get a workout. She kept running, not slowing her pace, even as her body screamed at her to quit. She needed the pain. She loved the pain.
There was a beeping sound in the distance, like an alarm breaking into a dream. It took another few hundred metres for her to realise it was the half-hour alarm. She stopped running and turned around. Her muscles screamed at her. Her lungs screamed louder. Her need to run screamed loudest. And so she started running again. Thirty minutes out as fast and as hard as she could. Thirty minutes back, faster and harder than she could.
If you could watch Chelsea’s life, you’d know that the mornings she made it the four k’s to town hall were those that followed a good night. And the mornings that she made it the six k’s to the video store were those that followed a bad night. On this morning she ran nine k’s. She ran it like her nightmares were chasing her.